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Gist talks to KJRH about Tulsa students returning to in-person learning

Posted at 6:22 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 09:32:22-05

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Public Schools board voted 4-3 to return students to in-person learning next week.

Superintendent Deborah Gist recommended a tiered approach to return students to school.

  • On Tuesday, Feb. 23, tier 3 and tier 4 students with special needs, grades 4, 5, 6, 7th graders at the junior high level, and 9th graders will return.
  • All other students would return on Thursday, Feb 25.
  • Next Monday, Feb. 22, is a distance learning day.
  • After that, Mondays will be in-person. Wednesdays will remain distance learning days.

Parents have the option to choose which learning mode they want for their child. The district asks you let it know by Friday, Feb. 19 if they will be in-person or in distance learning.

Tulia Fogli's twin boys will return to the classroom. At first, she was hesitant to have her boys return, but she said distance learning has been tough on their education and their mental health.

“The boys are really frustrated," Fogli said. "They don’t want to do homework. They’re fighting with me. They really want to come back to school.”

Christina Byrne is choosing to keep her children in distance learning. She wishes TPS chose a hybrid model. She also said she thinks the vote to return to in-person learning showed a lack of equity for the district and doesn't represent people of color, who are affected more by coronavirus. She also feels for the teachers who are now preparing for their students to return to the classroom.

“Even though they’re working harder and continually impressing me, this is a huge time crunch they’re being put under," Byrne said.

In a letter to parents, Dr. Gist said falling COVID-19 case rates is one of the reasons they chose to return students to the classroom.

She said they're following most CDC guidelines. She said the district installed advanced air filtration and air scrubber systems that exceed the CDC'S standards; however, there are recommendations she said are harder to follow. She said, while they will work to create as much safe distancing as possible during the school day, it's unlikely they can keep students six feet apart. She is asking adults to remain socially distanced in the building.

She also asks to drive your child to school if you can to provide more distancing on buses.

The board also voted to cancel its April intersession, which moves the last day of school up a week. The last day is now on May 28.

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